Old Timer needs some advice

I know you folks deal with these types of questions on a daily basis, so I want to pre-emptively say "thanks" to those of you who have the time and patience to help me out.

The last time I built a PC was in the socket 478 days, and as upgrade time has rolled upon me I've come to the realization that everything I knew can now be thrown out the window. CPU's are now dual core and quad core with smaller and smaller dies, video cards are single GPU, dual GPU, and SLI, motherboards have so many options my eyes are getting crossed, and RAM is available in both DDR2 and DDR3 flavors. Honestly, I'm too confused to make up my own mind.

I've done as much research as I can on my own. So many things are a toss up that I could really use some advice from people more knowledgeable than me on current day technology.With all that said, I'm looking for components for a gaming machine. I will rarely use this PC for anything other than that. I already have SATA HDDs, a case, and SATA optical drive. I need CPU, Motherboard, RAM, GPU, and PSU. Money is not an issue, though I'd like to keep the cost of these items to around $1000 to $1500.

CPU - I was originally considering getting a Q9550 but it seems for relatively the same price I can get an i7 920. Does it make sense to do so? Does the i7 really pack more power over the Q9550 for games? I'm not an avid overclocker but might dabble in it.

GPU - I'm traditionally an NVidia customer, but the reviews I've read place the 4870HDx2 card above the GX280. They're both pretty expensive cards, and considering I don't have any current day experience with ATI, I'm not sure which would be better for me. I will be using a 24 inch monitor at 1920x1200. I want to stay away from SLI at this time I think, unless you advise otherwise?

Motherboard - Wow, so many options here - I'm not sure where to start. I just want a stable MB that's compatible with the CPU/RAM/GPU choice. I don't care too much about bells and whistles although having the ability to overclock would be nice.

RAM - I assume I'd want the highest speeds possible that work with the CPU and MB choices, but other than that I'm not sure what to choose. Is DDR3 better than DDR2? If I go with an i7 CPU does that limit me to DDR3? I'd certainly get matched chips with low timings but could use any additional advice you may have.

PSU - From what I've read the i7 CPU's are power hogs, so I assume a 1000W PSU would be in order if I got that CPU. I assume Antec or Enermax are still good manufacturers? I saw some recommendations for a Corsair model, but I have no experience with them.

I know these are open ended questions and I really appreciate your time and patience. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks again.

23 answers Last reply
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  1. Please edit your post to make it readable! :pt1cable:
  2. Edited, thanks for the heads up.

    I have no idea why all those backslashes and
    characters got added.
  3. deeto said:
    Edited, thanks for the heads up.

    I have no idea why all those backslashes and
    characters got added.

    Weird, I've seen 3 posts this morning with the
    characters in them, and stuff is getting pushed into one paragraph. Wonder if there's a bug in the forums today...?

    You pose some questions that I think really come down to personal choices. I think before you move foward on half of your items, you need to choose between the Q9550 and the Core i7 chips. That will determine whether you go DDR2, or DDR3, and what motherboards to go with.

    If you stick with the Q9550, most folks generally say stick with DDR2 @ 800Mhz. Though, extra cash will buy you the DDR2 1066Mhz chips, but I don't think there's a very large performance bump. Good 800Mhz chips can be OC'd to 1066 in some cases anyhow.

    Ultimately, the Core i7 chips will probably open up your video card bandwidth a bit (i.e. less bottleneck potential from CPU performance). Though I don't know how overclockable the i7's are at this point. I recall reading some things about how they were artificially limited by Intel. Honestly I'm not really up to par on my i7 knowledge though.

    I suppose however, if you can afford it, the i7 is the very latest architecture. Which ultimately may mean you upgrade later, rather than sooner next time around? :)

    If you go Crossfire or SLI, or even run a 4870x2 card, you'll want a beefy power supply for sure. Antec is still a great choice these days.
  4. First of all, the main reason to go quad core (i7 or q9550) would be to do more multi-tasking. If you are planning to go with gaming, which I saw you mentioned, you could still look at getting an eXXX series (e8400, e8500) duo core and tear up any games that are currently out. If you would prefer to be more "future proof", you should go for a quad core.

    Right now, the i7 has very few components out for it, like the mobo and the ram. If you go a tri channel RAM, you will be most likely paying quite a bit more than if you even went just two nice quality 4gb pairs of RAM for a q9550 or the e8500. Mostly, if you go with an i7, expect to pay a lot more for a compatible mobo, and decent RAM, than you would if you went with just a q9550.

    If you choose to learn to OC, the 920, e8500, and q9550 are, again, great choices. The e8500 could easily give you a nice little OC of ~20% with minimal voltage changes.

    At the moment, there is very little increase in performance by going to DDR2 vs DDR3. Also, look at tight timings for your RAM, but you don't need to be RAM with 1600MHz unless you are expecting to do some extreme overclocking. 1333MHz is alright if you are expecting to be doing some medium OCing, but 1066 would do just fine for an i7. If you are thinking going q9550 or e8500 (I keep throwing it in because it is a GREAT processor for straight up gaming), then 800Mhz would be perfect.

    Also, unless you are going crossfire or SLI, you really don't need to be getting above a quality ~750W PSU like Corsair or Antec or PC P&C.

    As far as the GPU, the 4870x2 of course will be "above" the gtx280 because you are comparing a single GPU vs two cards in one. Either would do you well on a 24" 1920x1200, but depending on the game, you would see better FPS on average from the 4870x2.

    At the moment, many i7 rigs are going to go around ~$1500 because of the high priced mobo, cpu, and ram. Throw in a quality GPU like the ones you are looking at and you'll see roughly ~300 + 300 + 200 + 400-500, and then you have the case and PSU still to think about. A nice quality PSU will run ~$100 or so. That'll put you around $1400ish. I guarantee you'll get some people who will post some rigs for you. I hope some of this was helpful.

    edit: Here's a look at the build I am currently going with on my i7 gaming build

    NZXT Guardian 921 $89.99

    ASUS P6T Deluxe/OC Palm $338.99

    Sapphire 4870 1 gig $264.99

    Antec TruePower 1000W $229.99

    i7 920 $294.99

    G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 $214.99

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB $74.99

    SAMSUNG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner $28.99

    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium $99.99

    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler $36.99

    XIGMATEK ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket $8.49

    $1698 (note: I won't be paying over $1498, because I saved $200 by buying some of the parts on cyber monday. I'll be getting the other pieces in early Feb, after the Phenom II comes out, and I have the rest of my cash ready)

    Of course, you can save some cash by not getting the OC Palm edition of the MOBO, getting a 1333 or 1066 RAM and just 3gb RAM, and a lower wattage PSU.
  5. I suspect that if you built using s775, in six months you would regret not getting either i7 or AMD's Deneb, about to be released; BUT, if you built using i7, in six months you'd feel silly for spending as much money as you did.
    One scenario, tell me if it makes sense: as your current rig is s478, /anything/ would be better. Spend no more than $500 now, as whatever that buys will destroy your old system. Then, in 6 months, make this PC into a HTPC, media server, or give it to a friend or relative, and build new for $1000-$1500.
  6. If your not going to sli / cf (cross fire is the ati version of nvidia's sli) and this is strickly a gaming PC I would say go with the q9550. Its the overall better bang for you buck build.

    q9550 - ~$320
    assu p5q pro - ~$120
    crosair xms3 ddr2 800 2x2gbs - ~$25 (great deal at newegg right now)
    graphics card: gtx 280 - ~$375

    PSU You really don't need a 1000w psu unless your donig sli / cf setups. I would reccomend a crosiar 750 or a PC Power & Cooling 750. Both of these are top notch and will leave you some space for upgrading in the future. these run around ~$100 bucks

    very rough total $940

    Do you have a 64 bit OS? you will want one. (~$100)
  7. What games do you intend to play? I think that unless you've got benchmarks in hand that show a big difference for those specific titles (because most games are GPU-bound), any performance improvement of i7 over C2Q or C2D will not be worth the incredible price premium on DDR3 and a compatible mobo.
    Quick and dirty then:
    mobo: P43 or P45 (Asus, Gigabyte, or Biostar)
    CPU: E8400 or Q9450 (can OC to hit e8600 / Q9550 speeds)
    RAM: 2x2GB of DDR2-800 that will run at its advertised timings on the JEDEC standard 1.8V. Not only will it be a no-muss no-fuss initial installation, but it will likely OC easily if you use a little more voltage. The stuff that needs 2.1V-2.2V is already factory overclocked, and likely won't get much higher.
    GPU: Sounds like you want a 4870X2. I don't have a better idea.
    PSU: Any current single-card configuration can be powered by a quality 650W PSU. Right now, the Antec Earthwatts EA-650W is a mere $60 at Newegg.
    Having described yourself as an "old timer," I'm going to guess that, like me, you don't care for flashy cases with bling and bright lights all over them. Check out the CoolerMaster RC-690 for outstanding cooling.
  8. Thanks guys, this is very helpful information.

    I also wanted to mention that I read the article here -> http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/257075-31-what-parts-choose and it certainly provided additional insight for me.

    It seems as though the general consenus is to go with a Dual Core CPU rather than a Quad Core. When playing games I don't have background apps running - in the words of the above article, I am a minimalist when it comes to a PC software environment. (but I do talk on my cell phone while driving - hands free of course!) So it looks like the E8500 is a better deal than the E8600, same architecture, same cache etc just slightly slower clock speeds. It also appears I can OC this CPU and surpass E8600 stock speeds rather easily.

    I would like RAM that runs at 1066, although based on your recommendations it appears that 800 would be sufficient. Back in the days of the socket 478, if I remember correctly the CPU/RAM/FSB speeds were linked together. I think I remember hearing that this isn't the case anymore. Is this true? So the CPU and FSB speeds are still linked via a multiplier, but the RAM speeds are configurable seperately? If there's an article you can point me to (instead of explaining it here) that would certainly be very welcomed.

    I think I still need some help on the GPU selection. I really want to have a card that can last a couple years, and it seems like the dual GPU cards are the way to go. The 4870HDx2 at around $500 is a lot of money for a single card, though the 4850HDx2 at $375 seems like a great deal. I originally preferred to stay with NVidia but that's only because I have no experience with ATI. All the reviews I've read state the ATI cards are excellent, something you folks seem to agree with. I'm going to hold off on SLI/Crossfire for now, perhaps it would be something I upgrade to in the future.

    Any specific recommendations on Motherboard? Kubes, I noted the p5q pro Asus board you recommended, any others you think are appropriate?

    Lastly I should probably mention that I'm sticking with XP Pro for an OS for the time being. The 64 bit bug hasn't bitten me yet.

    Thanks again for all your advice guys, this is extremely helpful.
  9. Just a heads up: You can do enough "dabbling" in OCing with some 4gb Mushkin DDR2 800s to make you quite happy if you are using an e8500, especially if you are planning to OC on air, and aren't going for liquid cooling. You can reach 4GHz and not make huge voltage changes. In fact, some are claiming to get 4GHz on their e8600 without changing any voltage. If you are planning to OC more than 25%, then 1066 would be more warranted, but really some just like having that extra bit to work with anyways.

    Here's those mushkins I was talking about.

    The reason I mention them, is because really, if you go for something like an e8600, you can change your FSB to 400MHz and obtain nearly 4GHz, which is nearly a 25% OC. That'd match up perfectly with DDR2 800.

    Read this sticky to learn more about how overclocking works right now:

    Also, the p5q pro is a great motherboards for single GPUs (including the 4850x2/4870x2). That was my original choice for when I was considering a new E8500 build. If you wanted to do crossfire, then the deluxe edition would be the way to go, IMHO.
  10. That Mushkin RAM is what I'm using. When I set my FSB to 400, I had mine up to DDR2-960 for a while before I fixed the ratio back to 1:1, and it never hiccuped, and that was still only on 1.8V. If I were as interested as playing WITH my PC as I am in playing ON it, I probably would have been motivated to push it deliberately to see what it could do; around that time I think there were too many Stone Summit dwarves who needed killing though.
  11. Ok, so how does this look:

    Cooler Master RC690-KKN1-GP case
    Sapphire 4850HDx2 video card
    Corsair 650TX PSU
    Artic Silver 5 TC
    Asus P5Q Deluxe P45 mobo
    E8500 C2D cpu
    Mushkin 4GB DDR2 800 RAM

    Does anything here limit me in terms of future upgrades? I wanted the Deluxe motherboard so I could Crossfire another 4850HDx2 if I wanted to in the future.

    On newegg this list totals $1002.93

    Any and all thoughts or comments are welcomed!
  12. Dave,

    I'm of similar mind and have just finished up some pretty extensive homework and bought a new rig, so here's my two bits.

    CPU: went with the E8500, since better for overclocking and minimal multitasking needs. However, could also check out the E7400, as it has a higher 10.5 multiplier (vs. E8500's 9.5) while still being 45 nm Penryn. It is also slightly cheaper too. Might give you higher speed for gaming.

    MB: Asus P5Q-Pro, enough for my OC purposes. However, if you want more OC stability, then look into the P5Q Deluxe for its 16 phase power (P5Q-Pro only has 8 phase). But since you want to use it for gaming only and can afford to spend slightly more, then I would suggest the Asus Maximus II Formula, which has an even fancier 16 phase power design. Maximus is also a good value since it includes an X-Fi soundcard riser, so you should compare its price to whatever MB you are thinking of plus your intended soundcard (unless you want to use on-board audio). You would see that it's price premium would really be attributed to its better power design. I suspect that, although you will only dabble in OC at first, you will get more into it so Maximus will be a little more future proof (not to mention more fun).

    RAM: Mushkin Redline DDR2-1000. Very good value and support on the NCIX.com forums from Mushkin Greg. Also consider Corsair XMS2 DHX, the "C4DHX" version for low latency, or maybe Buffalo Firestix or G.Skill. Really a question of how high you will overclock the memory and / or what divider you will use. DDR2-800 is sufficient unless you want to extreme OC.

    GPU: EVGA 9800GTX+, 512 MB. I'm not going to go beyond a 22" LCD at 1680 x 1050 resolution, so this is sufficient for gaming. Also got a good price. This card should also be 55 nm, so it will run cooler and thus last longer (i.e. use it on a lower power PC in the future with the 22"). I'm sure ATI loyalists will disagree and suggest 4870, however. Keep in mind that the video card should be proportional to the size of monitor that you intend to use, so if you want 24" at 1920 x 1200, then a single 4870 should be sufficient. Two 4870s would be overkill, IMHO. The other factor to keep in mind is the 32 bit OS overall memory limit of 4GB. If you have 4GB system RAM already, then you can't use all of it anyway and the video card eats into this limit too. On balance, since I'm only using 22" resolution (plus Win XP), 512 MB video is good enough. I'll let the experts comment on Vista / 30" monitors / 4870x2 1GB. Beyond GPU itself, look at features and what you will use it for (e.g. dual slot cooling, HDMI / HDCP, etc.).

    PS: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610. Good quality, cheaper price compared to the others and within my system power needs. Try this power calculator to see what you will need:


    Don't get too big of a power supply as it will not be as efficient at lower power draws and you will end up wasting money on both the PS and electric bills. Only get a bigger one to future proof. Also consider the Corsair power supplies too. However, you should stick with one big 12V power rail for simplicity.

    Just to give you an idea of where I'm coming from, I don't want to use Vista so I'm sticking with XP until Windows 7 comes out and has all of its bugs ironed out. Therefore, I'm looking at a 2 year time frame for my rig. This is my view of "best bang for the buck" within the constraints of 32 bit Win XP and 22" monitor. Price is definitely an object for me and this comes in well below your lower end limit of $1,000. I am a balanced user but demand good performance and value.

    Prices fluctuate constantly, so sometimes, substitutions are made because, at the time of purchase, a certain part is better value than your originally intended part.

    Overall, you should think of your rig from a platform perspective. I think that the next major jump / combination is Windows 7 64 bit / Nehalem CPU / DDR3 tri-channel / 4870 or GTX 280 GPUs / 30"+ monitors. I'd just like it all to firm up a bit and work together well with everything else that's out there before I consider spending such big money on hardware.

    Finally, FSB is linked to CPU speed by its multiplier (unless you have an Extreme processor) and FSB is linked to memory speed by way of the memory divider (1:1 or higher). This equation will determine your main OC parameters.

    Good luck with your build!
  13. Onus said:
    I suspect that if you built using s775, in six months you would regret not getting either i7 or AMD's Deneb, about to be released; BUT, if you built using i7, in six months you'd feel silly for spending as much money as you did.
    One scenario, tell me if it makes sense: as your current rig is s478, /anything/ would be better. Spend no more than $500 now, as whatever that buys will destroy your old system. Then, in 6 months, make this PC into a HTPC, media server, or give it to a friend or relative, and build new for $1000-$1500.

    +1. Agreed. Wait until summer next year when Core i7 prices should drop, along with the release of the "main stream" socket Core i7.
  14. Deeto, if you're going to do it now, I think that would be an excellent build. I see no need to nit-pick, except you either need to add a CPU cooler, or drop the AS5, as the Retail cooler comes with paste. If you're planning to overclock, you'll probably want a better cooler.
    If you're not inclined to wait, you should be happy with that build.
  15. I agree. That build will definitely be a good one. OCing shouldn't be a problem if you get a decent CPU cooler. Something like the Arctic Freezer 7 Pro would do you very well for a duo core with just some "dabbling" of OCing. It goes for ~$19 on newegg, so it will barely affect your total at all.

  16. Guys,

    Just wanted to say a big THANKS to all of you who took the time to respond to my questions. Your advice was extremely helpful!!

    I got the config as I posted above except that I swapped out the P5Q Deluxe for a Pro and I added an aftermarket cooler for the CPU.

    I'm expecting receipt of my new rig later this week.

    Thanks guys ! ! !

  17. I'm glad it helped you. Good luck with your build. And post some pics and updates after it is built :)
  18. Yeah, have fun with your build.
  19. Hey guys, one other question for you. I bought a Freezer 7 Pro which came with some thermal compound on the heat sink. I also bought a syringe of Arctic Silver 5.

    Do you recommend I remove the TC from the HS and use the AS5 instead? I figure I have it so I should probably use it, but thought I'd ask first.

    I've done some reading on here about how to remove TC, and it seems pretty straight forward to remove it from a HS that's never been used before. (never been baked in) Any pitfalls you could tell me to watch out for before I turn the garden hose loose on this sucker?

  20. The amount that's there is most likely measured and placed properly. I don't think there's any need to replace it; but if you still want to, use 91% isopropyll alcohol on a lint-free cloth to get it off. Then put your finger in a plastic bag, or put on an exam-glove to spread the thinnest possible layer of new AS5 on the surface of the CPU's heat spreader before attaching the Freezer 7 Pro.
  21. I think it's worth your time to replace the compound. X-bit labs just did a nice review of thermal compounds. The stuff that comes with most coolers is crap as you'll see:


    Be sure to go to the Arctic Silver website for the recommended installation method.

  22. Dave,

    I'd definitely use the AS 5 and remove the old TC per jtt283's method. Could also use a coffee filter instead of the lint-free cloth.

    When it comes to installing the new TC, you've probably run into the different methods of application, but generally, you could:

    1. draw a line

    2. apply an amount in the middle of the CPU equivalent to about 2 grains of uncooked rice

    3. draw a small cross in the middle and put 4 dots near the corners (probably better for the little grooves of the direct touch heatsinks, which the Freezer 7 Pro is not)

    The key is not to use too much TC--if it is squirting out the sides, then you've applied way too much.

    One other little point regarding the heatsink to make your life easier: mount the heatsink, lock in the pushpins, install the fan, do whatever you have to do to shorten the power cord or get it out of the way (e.g. wrap it), and connect it to the mobo header BEFORE you mount the mobo into the case. It's much harder to tie the cord out of the way or mount the fan once it's all installed in the case. Also, the space at the top of the case is just a little tight if your hands are big (yes, I know that it's even a tighter squeeze to install the 8-pin power connector on the P5Q Pro once the heatsink is installed).

    Hope this helps.
  23. +1 on the replace. Artic Silver is worth every dime that you paid for it.
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